Human Flower Project

Orrington, MAINE USA

flag flower bed

parker basket thumb
Princeton, MAINE USA

Monday, April 20, 2009

Flower Vendors, Sing Out!

To Archie Green’s temple of laborlore, we bring another offering: “cries” from the street.


Archie Green

at home on Caselli Ave., San Francisco, 2008

Photo: Shelly Romalis

A month ago, one of my heroes gave out after 91 years. Archie Green died March 22 in San Francisco.

As widely read and thoughtful as anyone I’ve known, Archie stretched over political theory, linguistics, the history of art prints, ethnomusicology, 19th Century American literature…. In conversation, he was precise and boundless, also given to fine eccentricities, like intentionally mispronouncing the singer Madonna’s name – “Ma-dOne-Ah,” with a very long, dopey O.

Archie’s great commission was studying the culture of working people, what he called “laborlore.” From the inception of the Human Flower Project, I tried to get him aboard but never succeeded.

Here, I and others have looked at many dimensions of flower labor. We’ve written about the conditions for fieldworkers in several parts of the world, and tricks of the florists’ trade. We’ve run photographs of New York sweatshops where women made artificial flowers. We even documented the use of flowers in a Montreal labor union’s demonstration. Pushing all these efforts at Archie, I could tell he was never really grabbed by any of it.

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Posted by Julie on 04/20 at 10:14 PM
Art & MediaCulture & SocietyCut-Flower TradeFloristsSecular CustomsPermalink

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Flowers Declare Peace—Too Soon

Baghdad’s first flower festival, which opened this week, was supposed to send a message of peace and safety to the world.


Two girls got in the spirit of Iraq’s first international flower festival Wednesday in Zawra Park, Baghdad

Photo: AP

“Mission accomplished”?  –okay,  if that means getting some downtown flower beds planted with annuals, coaxing several foreign landscape designers to participate, and capturing happy photos of children and snapdragons.

The City of Baghdad opened a weeklong municipal flower show Wednesday of this week in Zawra Park, right downtown. And for a city decimated by more than six years of war, these are respectable missions. But planners had hoped for considerably more.

“We want to send a message that Iraq is a country that is interested in love and peace,” Hakim Abdel Zahra, a spokesman for the city council told AFP. “The time of violence and fear is over now.”

In this respect, Baghdad’s floral public relations effort has been about as convincing as George W. Bush’s address aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln, May 1, 2003. As Bush declared victory in Iraq, the infamous banner was unfurled across the aircraft carrier.

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Posted by Julie on 04/18 at 11:41 PM
Art & MediaGardening & LandscapePoliticsPermalink

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Make Room for Betsy

A gift takes pride of place.


Life intervenes: ‘Louis Philippe’ (maybe), a china rose, passed along from Betsy Pirie, courtesy of Terry Childress

Photo: Human Flower Project

Garden design is to gardening as standing on the beach swinging your arms is to swimming in the ocean. Lots to be gained by arm-swinging, as in not drowning. But once you’re in over your head, other motions take precedence.

Social life is like that—oceanic. And by an act of kindness, we’ve just been ripped off shore.

Our neat, newly designed and planted (and exorbitant)  garden has been coming along fine this spring, even despite two+ months of sewer repairs the length of the street. Time, we figured, to pull some little weeds, kick back and watch Eden happen.

On our especially sunny south side, we’d put in six roses. Three were salvaged from the yard B.S.E. (Before the Stan Era): Archduke Charles, Russelliana (a.k.a. the Old Spanish rose), and JACarque or Honey Perfume (we abbreviate to H.P.). A Maggie and second Archduke Charles had fried last fall, along with three Ducher shrubs.

So we bought and planted a second Archduke Charles and two gorgeous F.J. Lindheimer roses (stay tuned for more on the latter). Settled, lovely, nearly symmetrical, and all blooming or coming into bloom.


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Posted by Julie on 04/16 at 12:10 PM
Culture & SocietyGardening & LandscapePermalink

Monday, April 13, 2009

Mazes of Penance, Pleasure, Lessons

Russell Bowes takes us through pedestrian puzzles. Walk yourself silly, sexy or righteous.


Aerial view of the maze at Hampton Court

Photo: via Helmer Aslaksen

By Russell Bowes

This is as strange a maze as e’er men trod

And there is in this business more than nature

was ever conduct of…..

(from The Tempest, by William Shakespeare)

Although the words “maze” and “labyrinth” nowadays tend to be used as synonyms, “labyrinth”  refers to a construction or design which is unicursal – that is, having one path without junctions or dead ends. To solve a labyrinth involves simply following a single path through its convolutions from beginning to end. A maze is multicursal; in its design, the original path branches or forms junctions with others, so that its ‘solution” relies on some trial and error.  It should be noted that English is the only language with two words to distinguish this difference.

The earliest public labyrinths, appearing in medieval Europe, were large scale designs set into the floors of the great cathedrals.  Made of contrasting slabs of stone or marble, they were generally circular in shape,  structured around a central cross.  Commonly formed of 7 or 11 rings, these figures represented the circuitous path of the human soul as it rose and fell in the journey towards the ultimate goal of salvation. Some have also theorized that the rings of paths around the usually circular “goal” represent the nimbus of light behind the head of the Christ figure. Such labyrinths were not considered as a means of pleasure, but of penitence; sinners did not walk labyrinths but were to complete them on their knees as a means of atonement. Given the size of many of these labyrinths – that at Chartres is 40 feet in diameter, requiring a journey of 150 yards to complete - the suffering must have been considerable!

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Posted by Julie on 04/13 at 03:26 PM
Culture & SocietyGardening & LandscapeReligious RitualsPermalink
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