Human Flower Project

Orrington, MAINE USA

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Princeton, MAINE USA

Monday, February 19, 2007

Vicious Animals in the Garden

When gardening neighbors tangle, out come bleach, teeth, gauze, and police.

imageJust checking your geraniums…

Photo: via Creative Screenwriting

For those who think gardening’s just sunny, a harmless diversion for the mild of manner, consider two neighbors from Berkshire in the U.K. They wound up in court on Valentine’s Day over a sizzling floral dispute and a bloody stump.

It all began, like the War in Iraq, over “my space”—who was entitled to park where. The psychic elbowing then shifted, ah yes, to gardens. One woman didn’t like how the other was planting her flower beds and called her a “bitch” through a gap in the fence. Pushing the civility envelope?

After returning from a trip out of town, Marija Andric of Maidenhead, saw her plants were dead. “I held a flower and it looked as if it was burned but it didn’t look as if it had been burned by the sun. I went to the kitchen to get some water and when I poured it onto the flowers some kind of foam seemed to come out of the ground like there had been some kind of poison or shampoo poured on it.” Andric suspects that her neighbor, Pamela Fox, threw bleach on the plants.

After this incident, Fox allegedly appeared at Andric’s door. ““She had a bottle of spray which she pointed in my face and she said, ‘You killed my flowers’.” Andric told the Reading Crown Court that Fox (real name) then lunged forward and bit off the end of Andric’s pinky. “The jury could plainly see the stump of her little finger on her right hand.” At which point Ms. Fox swooned and the judge called it a day.

Sure, gardening has its sinister side, along with a handy shed-full of rakes, rope, clippers, and snail bait.  Look underneath that big brimmed hat and you’ll find a monster. Property and Pride are grinning, the shiny white uppers and lowers in the great jaw of Gardening. Keep your gloves on, neighbors, and fix that fence!

Posted by Julie on 02/19 at 01:34 PM
Culture & SocietyGardening & LandscapePermalink

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Year of the Golden Pig

Greet the most popular holiday on the globe, Lunar New Year, with peach blossoms, incense, fire, and a snout.


A parade marking Year of the Boar in London, 2/18/07

Photo: Sang Tan, for AP

Are your peach branches in bloom?

If so, 2007 (actually 4705) should bring prosperity and happiness. Today is the lunar new year—a moveable feast, celebrated on the second new moon after the winter solstice. Throughout Southeast Asia and for Southeast Asians wherever they now live, this is the biggest holiday of the year, and flowers are part of the festivity. In Malaysia, China, and the northern provinces of Vietnam, the five petals of pink peach blossoms are harbingers of a lucky year. In Southern Vietnam bong mai trees have been carefully pruned, climate controlled, and otherwise babied so they’ll blossom in a golden shower today. Unseasonably warm winter set the blooms off too early in much of Vietnam; so growers in the mountainous region of Lao Cai are gloating. Their chillier temperatures held off the bong mai blooms (sometimes mistranslated into English as “apricot”) until prime time, and sales across Vietnam have been strong.

imagePeach blossoms and flower songs

of Hanoi’s citywide celebration

Photo: Vietnam net

“‘Our flowers are just as beautiful and fresher than flowers from Da Lat,’ said a farm owner in Sa Pa Town. He said flower gardeners in Sa Pa have been receiving orders for Tet flowers from dealers in big cities like Ha Noi and Hai Phong for the past three months. Indeed, bringing Lao Cai apricots and flowers home on Tet” (as the New Year is called in Vietnam) “is becoming popular among young people in urban areas.”

As has happened elsewhere in the world, with modernization bulldozing the folk traditions of China and Vietnam, these customs are undergoing revival; the bigger the city, the more deliberate the observances. These interesting articles describe how calligraphy, drinking games, and flower rituals have been staged in Ha Noi  and Ho Chi Minh City “to honour and review tradition habits during Vietnamese New Year, which is losing among busy development.”

imagePoster for New York’s Chinese New Year festivities

Photo: MOCA

From Guangzhou, China to Hong Kong to New York, New York, special flower markets mark the arrival of “Chinese New Year,” a glorious way for urbanites to reach for spring, whiff “the olden days,” decorate the flat, and keep cash registers churning.

In China, health officials expect a baby boom in the months ahead. This is Year of the Golden Pig, “which falls once every 60 years and is held to be especially auspicious….The Chinese horoscope predicts fortune, health and happiness for those born under this sign.”

(Check your sign here.)

The pig (or boar)  is a bon vivant: happy, fertile, honest, loyal and (grunt-grunt) a bit hedonistic. Notable boars include Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mozart, Lucille Ball, Alfred Hitchcock, and Hillary Rodham Clinton. Hillary, turning 60 this year, was born in the previous year of the golden boar. If there’s anything to Chinese astrology, she should really bring home the bacon in 2007.



Posted by Julie on 02/18 at 11:38 AM
Culture & SocietySecular CustomsPermalink

Friday, February 16, 2007

Marie Menken: Avant Youtube

An avant-garde artist and garden stumbler is remembered in a documentary, and even better, through her own glowing films.

imageMarie Menken dancing w/ Tennessee Williams

Photo: Factory made

Before she donned the big hat as an extra in Andy Warhol’s Chelsea Girls or played lumbering Muse to the New York (male) avant-garde, Marie Menken was making movies. She was an abstract painter, and turned an abstractionist’s fascination with rhythm, color and texture into short experimental films, lots of them,  mostly 3-7 minutes long.

Jonas Mekas wrote in her obituary (1970), “Marie’s films were her flower garden. Whenever she was in her garden, she opened her soul, with all her secret wishes and dreams.”

This weekend her 1957 work Glimpse of the Garden will be shown along with more than a dozen of her other films at Anthology Film Archives in New York City. Occasioning this Menken revival is a documentary by Marie Kudlacek, Notes on Marie Menken, which is showing at the same location, 7 and 9 pm, through Sunday. But from what we can tell, it’s the rarely screened Menken films themselves that are most exciting.

imageFrom Glimpse of the Garden

by Marie Menken (1909-1970)

Source: Ubuweb

“Marie was one of the first filmmakers to improvise with the camera and edit while shooting,” Mekas wrote. “She filmed with her entire body, her entire nervous system. You can feel Marie behind every image.”

It’s true. With a thousand thanks to UBUWEB, we can watch Glimpse of the Garden online. All you need is five minutes and an environment where chirping birds—the entire soundtrack—will be welcome. (Note: If you’re not in such an environment presently, exit immediately!)

The film captures our favorite gardening activity, what we call “stumbling.” You gardeners know it well, the transfixed but rather aimless survey of branches, what’s grown overnight, which way which plants are leaning, lapping up shadows, gargling color. How we wish we could see this on the big screen! Menken’s films will show in two batches, 10 of them at 5 pm Saturday, February 17, and 8 more (including Glimpse of the Garden) at 3:30 on Sunday, Feb. 18th. Here’s the complete schedule.

“There is no why for my making films,” she said in a 1966 interview. “I just liked the twitters of the machine, and since it was an extension of painting for me, I tried it and loved it. In painting I never liked the staid and static, always looked for what would change the source of light and stance, using glitters, glass beads, luminous paint, so the camera was a natural for me to try – but how expensive!”

Worth all of it, Marie.


Posted by Julie on 02/16 at 06:15 PM
Art & MediaGardening & LandscapePermalink

Let’s Compare Carbon Footprints

UK’s international development leader decries the move to limit African flower imports.


Flower freight planes or heated greenhouses?

Photo: Kenya Airways

We wrote last week about giant retailer Tesco’s decision to cut its imports in half, a blow to Kenyan flower exporters. The change had been urged by some environmentalists, who argue that carbon emissions caused by transport planes from Africa need to be curtailed to help reverse global warming.  Currently, about one third of flowers imported to the UK come from Kenya.

But Britain’s international development secretary Hilary Benn has spoken out against reducing imports from Africa. In a statement prepared for an international sustainable food conference, Benn asserted, “A recent study shows that the emissions produced by growing flowers in Kenya and flying them to the UK can be less than a fifth of those grown in heated and lighted greenhouses in Holland because Kenya is warm and sunny, and heating greenhouses in Holland uses enormous amounts of energy.”  The study purportedly showed that the same quantity of flowers from Kenya produced 6,000 kg of carbon dioxide compared to 35,000 kg for flowers grown in the Netherlands.

Tesco’s decision to curb imports, announced just before Valentine’s Day, has sent the Kenyan flower industry and political officials into high explanatory gear. Kenyan High Commissioner to Britain Joseph Muchemi declared, “European nations must look to reduce their emissions first before penalising African producers. A boycott of Kenyan roses or green beans would be disastrous for many Kenyan farmers, especially small-holders, and would do little to mitigate climate change.”

Some environmentalists and human rights groups have countered that there are problems beyond carbon emissions in Kenya’s flower sector— foremost its low-wages, dangerous working conditions and the heavy pollution of Lake Naivasha.

Muchemi emphasized that with all its shortcomings the burgeoning flower industry has brought the prospect of stability and education within reach for many Kenyan families that had been living in dire poverty. He told the Guardian that cut flower companies in Kenya employ 500,000 people and perhaps a million more who work in related service industries. “Food miles is a valuable concept,” he said, “but it must be looked at in the whole.”

A whole that includes economic disparity, underdevelopment, ecology, luxury, hunger, and cultural differences is hard to resolve. It’s called Our World.

Posted by Julie on 02/16 at 02:14 PM
Cut-Flower TradeEcologyPoliticsPermalink
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