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Sunday, December 04, 2005

For the Bride of Frankenstein

A Holland company is selling glow-in-the-dark flowers. But why?

imageGlowing mums sold Dec. 2

Photo: FloraHolland

The line between innovation and inanity is taut. Twang!

FloraHolland tripped over it Friday at the “Naaldwijk clocks” auction. The company sold its first batches of “luminous flowers,” ‘Sofie’ and ‘Avalanche+’ roses and ‘Anastasia’ chrysanthemums that had been sprayed with a mystery chemical to glow in the dark for “quite some time.”  Single “chrysanthemums went for 0.93 euros (US$1.09) and roses were 2.50 euros (US$2.93) ...  50 percent more than normal.”

More in price, but otherwise less than normal. These are flowers for Frankenstein’s bride or perhaps the hostess’ podium at an S&M bistro. Who else would want blooms that look irradiated?

“Glowing flowers meet the market demand for innovative new products,” FloraHolland has announced. (We thought fresh flowers were the original and eternal “novelty.”)

image‘Where’s my bling?’

Elsa Lancaster in

Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

Photo: Life Under the Microscope

The company says its spooky blooms “fit in with the ‘bling-bling’ trend,” and notes “The glowing products are expected to do especially well in southern and eastern Europe.” Why would that be? Low wattage? Gothic gift shops? Readers from Romania, Greece and neighboring countries, please reply.

For marvels far beyond bling,  check out Bjorn Roslett’s website, an amazing album of flowers and their naturally-occurring luminescence.

Posted by Julie on 12/04 at 11:06 AM
Culture & SocietyCut-Flower TradeFloristsPermalink

Saturday, December 03, 2005

George Best: Cushioning the Blow

Soccer hero George Best of Northern Ireland was buried today in Belfast, after nine days of floral tributes.

imageMural of N. Ireland soccer star George Best

Photo: Jeff J, Mitchell, for Reuters

Soccer fans across the world are in mourning today as the man many say was the sport’s greatest natural athlete was buried in Belfast. Alcoholism killed George Best November 25.  He was 59.

Today in his home city, “Thousands lined the funeral route from the Best family’s modest home to the white-pillared grandeur of Belfast’s Stormont parliament building despite bitter cold and pouring rain. Another 30,000 gathered in the Stormont grounds.”

In muttonchop sideburns and a red jersey, Best led Manchester United to championship, but his hold on the public imagination far exceeded anything due to victory on the playing field. He—like Princess Di—was adored by millions for laying bare both toughness and frailty. After retiring from the game in 1974, his hedonism and collapse from it kept the legend-machine throbbing.


Flower memorials in the yard of Best family home, Belfast

Photo: Russell Boyce, for Reuters

These sorts of write-ups abound: “The expectancy, the pressures on him to perform at such a sustained level of greatness were so huge. He was, said the sportswriter David Miller, ‘fantasy brought to life.’ Yet those hopes were embodied in a character totally unsuited to deal with the demands on him. He was wayward and weak. And, in the end, the demons would win.”

“Fantasy”...“demons”...was it really so very mystical? What’s mystical to us is how an affliction commonplace as alcohol addiction time and again gets romanticized, coating the celebrity cherry with dark chocolate. Best was diagnosed with severe liver disease in 2000 and underwent a transplant operation in 2002.

Since Best died nine days ago, the floral tributes have surged. The yard of his home, the stadiums where he once played, and the hearse that crossed through Belfast all were heaped with flowers and pennants.

imageGeorge Best’s funeral cortege drives down Prince of Wales Ave.,  toward the Parliament Buildings in Stormont, Belfast

Photo: Andrew Parson, for AP

The Belfast Telegraph ran a story about floral arrangements on order for the rites, both formal and vernacular, taking place today. “Hollywood actor Mickey Rourke, star of Sin City and Get Carter, ...sent a red and white peace sign with the message saying ‘Cheers Georgie, Love Mickey Rourke.’”

The Prime Minister chose the more traditional “all white wreath.” Secretary of State Peter Hain sent a large spray of flowers, red and white, the colors of Manchester United Football Club. The team itself sent “a red and white football on a green pitch.”

It seems to us that only in the U.K. would there be such an abundance of flowers for a male athlete. We can’t imagine Joe DiMaggio’s or Michael Jordon’s front yard stuffed with flower bouquets. Or maybe the U.S. just has no sports figure who inspires this much suffocating sort of affection. Stateside, we tend to like (and produce) athletes more like Bill Russell and Jimmy Connors, who would probably endorse sending flowers where the sun don’t shine.

For more on George Best’s athletic career, and lore, check this site. This one includes video tributes.

Posted by Julie on 12/03 at 01:00 PM
Art & MediaFloristsReligious RitualsSecular CustomsPermalink

Friday, December 02, 2005

Floral Graffiti

Bella Meyer tags New York with fugitive bouquets and illicit gifts.

imageIn a NYC phone booth

Installation, Bella Meyer

Photo: Downtown Express

Florists are increasingly crossing over from mercantile and service sectors to the more cerebral, self-aggrandizing, and chancy world of art. Some, like Coby Neal here in Austin, make ephemeral sculptures of flowers (more on Coby another day). Others, like Bella Meyer, deploy flowers in public installations and performance art.

Rachel Breitman of Downtown Express describes Meyer’s recent forays through New York City. A Medieval art historian and granddaughter of painter Marc Chagall, Meyer has been nestling flower arrangements in some of the most neglected and shadowy corners of the city. She picks the greyest days, the shabbiest streets as settings, a stalk of nature on cement, so that yellow or pink may glow like revelation against a field of grime.

Breitman writes, “On one unkempt street corner underneath a sign that read ‘connection for Fire Department,’ a vivid rainbow-colored arrangement of white calla lilies, pale green hydrangeas, yellow, red, and peach roses, purple violets, red chili peppers, and a pink Caribbean pineapple camouflaged the littered sidewalk and peeling paint.” But it’s not so much that Meyer’s flowers hide the city’s filth; it’s that filth serves as a halo for her flowers.


Bouquets on a New York City street

Photo: Bella Meyer

Meyer’s endeavor harkens back to Mierle Laderman Ukeles’ Touch Sanitation (1980); Ukeles crisscrossed the city shaking hands with more than eight thousand of New York’s sanitation workers, to acknowledge and dignify the basic maintenance of society which—at the domestic level, anyway—was a.k.a. “women’s work.”

Meyer’s bouquets in blighted public spaces are likewise designed for redemption, though they lack both Ukeles’s presumtuousness and her feminism. In Meyer’s work, it’s floral beauty, more than cultural capital, that provides the Midas touch.

We are also interested to learn that Meyer and her “volunteer graffiti artists” have been passing out flowers to the most hurried, sourest New Yorkers they see. “Occasionally the artists are misconstrued as being cult members or a religious group trying to convert commuters,” Breitman writes. Passing out flowers “is illegal,” in Penn Station, Breitman notes, and adds, “Long Island commuters are the most flower-averse.”

imageAutumn Red

Photo: Fleurs Bella

Meyer says she’s content with the label “naive” for her efforts to beautify, for her “gifts” of flowers. But we think she’s no more naive than her amazing Grandfather Chagall. Marcel Mauss, and many others, have explained that gifts are always freighted. They articulate both the power of the giver and an obligation—however small or vague—upon the recipient. They require some reciprocity, gratitude at the very least, and (Here comes Santa Claus) most often a gift in return.

And let’s not overlook that Meyer, in addition to being an artist, has a flower business, called Fleurs Bella. At some level, her public art is palpable marketing, not so different from RJ Reynolds reps passing out micro-packages of Winstons on the street.

Posted by Julie on 12/02 at 10:52 AM
Art & MediaCulture & SocietyFloristsPermalink
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