Human Flower Project

Orrington, MAINE USA

flag flower bed

parker basket thumb
Princeton, MAINE USA

Monday, August 11, 2008

Base, Superstructure, Giverny

John Levett tries focussing downward and rediscovers the gap in Marxism—a garden.

imageEssay and Photos by John Levett

This started with Dave Mackay. Sitting in the garden on a day that was almost Summer I thought of Dave. He played for a variety of football clubs in the ‘60s & ‘70s and was well known for football-with-violence. One story has a journalist knocking on Mackay’s front door on a Saturday afternoon to let his wife know Dave had finished the game with a broken leg. Her (alleged) response was “Whose?”

1953. I got my first pair of birthday football boots. Not just any pair. A pair ‘As Worn By Stanley Matthews.’ No doubt as personally worn and dispatched by Stan immediately on his return home from that Coronation year’s FA Cup Final (Backpool 4 - Bolton 3). In such a year not a sign of a ‘Wayne,’ ‘Kevin’ or ‘Glenn,’ let alone fancy Dans like ‘Ronaldo,’ ‘Didier,’ or ‘Raphael.’ Stans, Alfs and Berts all round—English, working class and tea drinkers.

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Posted by Julie on 08/11 at 09:57 AM
Art & MediaCulture & SocietyGardening & LandscapePoliticsPermalink

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Garden as Doorway through Time

Speaking in California on her new book Yard Art and Handmade Places, Jill Nokes gets a pointer from a friend—backward in time, down a well-beaten trail in old San Antonio. Thank you, Jill!


Mission San Francisco de Espada, San Antonio, TX

Photo: Jill Nokes

By Jill Nokes

Late last spring, while I was visiting California to give a book lecture, someone asked if I had ever noticed “that charming little swept dirt yard just outside the entrance to the Mission San Francisco de Espada” in San Antonio.  Like most people’s visits to the eighteenth century missions in San Antonio, mine had been limited to taking out of town guests to see the Alamo, and, once, a quick drive-by tour of Mission Concepciòn de Acuña.  Somehow I had never taken the time to explore the eight-mile “Mission Road.” This concrete trail connecting seven missions begins downtown with the mythic shrine of the Alamo, and follows the San Antonio River to the southernmost Mission Espada.  Although I have spent countless hours looking at ancient churches all over Mexico, I had only a vague understanding of the old presidios and religious compounds established less than one hundred miles from my home.

Soon after returning from California, with another lecture scheduled in San Antonio, I used that as an excuse to shanghai my good friend and preservationist architect Morgan Price to go with me to search for the vernacular garden that had so intrigued my California friend.

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Posted by Julie on 08/09 at 02:20 PM
Culture & SocietyGardening & LandscapeReligious RitualsTravelPermalink

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Jasmine Song for the Olympians

Beijing will serenade medalists with jade chimes, ancient bronze bells and “Mo Li Hua”—a flower song centuries old.


Chinese jasmine (Jasminum polyanthum)

Photo: Ivette Soler, Germinatrix

Like a bad penny, John Williams’s “Olympic Fanfare” keeps turning up, only lots louder than a penny—tooting in your head. Rip Van Winkle, this clip’s for you….

Williams wrote the bloated jingle for 1984 Olympic games in Los Angeles, and twenty-four years later it’s going to require mass neurosurgery to free us of it.

Today, we were gladdened to learn that musical directors of the 2008 Beijing Olympics have taken a different approach, more ancient chimes, less Hollywood horns. Tan Dun calls it “jinshengyuzhen - gold sound and jade vibrations.” Here he describes his musical philosophy and instrumentation in relation to Taoism and Zen.

What most pleased us was Tan’s decision to make “Jasmine Flower,” a Chinese folk song, the theme of this year’s medal ceremonies. Even Westerners may actually have heard “Mo Li Hua” (Jasmine Flower). The song dates from the Qing dynasty, and Puccini made it the theme for his operatic princess Turandot.

If you’re preparing for the games and would like to be able to sing along to “Mo Li Hua,” there are loads of youtube recordings. Our favorite is this duet – recorder and a Chinese zither (Gu Zheng). Another pretty instrumental version comes from this chamber music trio: harp, cello, and violin. And how about played on a banjo at the kitchen table?

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Posted by Julie on 08/06 at 04:13 PM
Art & MediaCulture & SocietySecular CustomsPermalink

Monday, August 04, 2008

Botany à la Cart

A 350-year-old research garden wheels out an innovation in plant education. And now, the public’s invited. Thanks, EarthScholars, for this trip to Chelsea.


At the Entrance to Chelsea Physic Garden

Photo: EarthScholars™ Research Group

By James H. Wandersee and Renee M. Clary

EarthScholars™ Research Group

There is small and wonderful “secret” walled garden in southwest London within the Royal Borough of Chelsea that no plant enthusiast should miss. This is the Chelsea Physic Garden, founded by the Society of Apothecaries in 1673. Its purpose was to promote the study of botany in relation to medicine, then known as the “physic” or healing arts. Here, apothecaries’ (pharmacists’) apprentices were trained to identify medicinal plants.

This hidden garden is located on a 3.5-acre section of the grounds surrounding Chelsea’s most famous building—the Chelsea Royal Hospital—an elegant building designed by architect Christopher Wren and completed in 1694. Elsewhere on the grounds, the Royal Horticultural Society’s Chelsea Flower Show (“the ultimate event in the gardening year”) is held each May. 

The average price of a house in Chelsea (reported by the BBC, from 2007 data) is $10,189,471. Here is a “Global Ultra Prime Residential Area,” frequented by Princes William and Harry.  For 300 years, this garden was closed to the public, admitting scientific researchers only. Then, in 1983, due to financial expediency, the garden’s administration was transferred to a new independent charity, and it was decided to admit the public on a limited basis. What a joy! Ordinary folk could finally see behind those high and venerable stone walls.

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Posted by Julie on 08/04 at 11:04 AM
Art & MediaCulture & SocietyMedicineTravelPermalink
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