Human Flower Project
Saturday, February 27, 2010
Down on the Digital-Dirt Divide
For plantsman Allen Bush, it all began by getting shooed out of the house. After digging holes to an imaginary China, he’s actually gone there, collecting rare species and befriending rarer horticulturalists from across the world.
A youth spent in the woods leads to self-esteem, and in some cases, to a career and schanpps, also
Photo: Jonathan Prescott
By Allen Bush
I wish children could experience the same simple pleasures I enjoyed over fifty years ago. They should try to dig a hole to China. My big adventure was slowed by summer heat and hard clay, but I finally busted through, on a plant hunting trip in 2001. Memories of abandoned, shallow craters from childhood expeditions in Louisville are nearly as good as Sichuan itself turned out to be.
Back in those early years, I imagined I could poke through by noon and be home by dark. But the only way kids are going to dig to China now is if they hack into Chinese cyberspace. American youngsters can’t be bothered with a spade. And they’re certainly not spending much time outside, unless you count a precious few minutes misspent with older brothers and sisters who stand shivering at the back door catching a smoke.
The digital-dirt divide worries me. Edward O. Wilson understands outdoor lessons: “The Secret Places of childhood, whether a product of instinct or not, at the very least predispose us to acquire certain preferences and undertake practices of later value in survival. The hideaways bond us with place and they nourish our individuality and self-esteem,” Wilson writes in The Future of Life. ”If played out in the natural environment, they also bring us close to the earth and nature in ways than can engender a lifelong love of both.”
Generation Z may learn again how to dirty their mitts and swing on a wild grape vine across a skinny creek, but it doesn’t look promising.
Among American children, ages eight to eighteen, more than seven and half hours are spent each day wired to smartphones, music/video devices, computers and televisions – sometimes multitasking several digital gizmos at once—according to a study conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation. And there’s no “Thank God It’s Friday” for this demographic. Bleary eyes are focused 24/7 all week long—which amounts to a whopping fifty-three hours —barely seeing the light of day. Stop and smell the roses? Doubtful.
Culture & Society • Ecology • Gardening & Landscape • Science • Travel • Permalink
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
The Plants of Avatar
Following through on a filmmaker’s vision, a botanist hypothesizes plants with darts of poison and roots that grow upward—the flora of Pandora.
Exploring the plant and animal and ?? life on Pandora, in James Cameron’s movie Avatar
Image: via Scifi Scoop
By James H. Wandersee and Renee M. Clary
EarthScholars™ Research Group
Avatar, the current 3-D blockbuster film written and directed by James Cameron, is the first movie ever to gross $2 billion globally. You’ve probably seen it, or at least talked to someone who has. Considered a rare breakthrough in cinematic technology for its advances in 3-D viewing and stereoscopic filmmaking, Avatar was made with cameras specially designed for the film’s production.
This science fiction film takes place in the year 2154, on Pandora, a moon of Polyphemus, a giant gas planet orbiting a star beyond Earth’s neighborhood, Alpha Centauri. Pandora is inhabited by the Na’vi, a ten-foot-tall, blue-skinned species of wise humanoids, who are linked in equilibrium with all of the moon’s nature, worshiping an ecological goddess called Eywa—the tree-nexus of the moon’s wireless “biological internet.” The film’s title points to the genetically engineered Na’vi bodies used by several of the story’s human characters to interact with the natives of Pandora. In Cameron’s future vision, technology can inject human intelligence into a remote biological body and activate it.
Saturday, February 20, 2010
A Feel for the Real and the Artificial
When are artificial flowers in order, and when will only real blossoms do? Sandy Ao comes upon floral irony in Kolkata’s New Market.
A shop of artificial flowers, the only one amid many
flower stalls at Kolkata’s New Market
Photo: Sandy Ao
How do you feel about artificial flowers? Maybe these other terms—“silk” “faux” “plastic” “handmade” “fake” – would color your answer.
A couple of weeks ago, we visited Quinta Mazatlan in McAllen, Texas, a beautiful Spanish style home and surrounding patios, gardens, and estate that are now an international gathering place for birders. On a sideboard in the livingroom stood a huge arrangement of lilies and what looked like proteas flowers. “Are these real!?” we yelped – and were told quietly, no.
There’s always a sheepish, sunken feeling then, at least for us. We tend to look away, as if after all there had been nothing to admire. What is that? Is it having been duped?
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
February 16: Dictator Theorists
On the 68th (or is it 69th?) birthday of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il, speculators read floral clues and predict his successor.
Officials in Pyongyang at the convocation Feb. 16, 2010 to honor Kim Jong-Il’s birthday. Red kimjongilia begonias set the scene but the North Korean leader did not attend.
Photo: North Korea News Agency, via AP
“If we’ve done it at least once before, that makes it a ‘tradition,’” So our friend Clint remarked, about the human tendency to see patterns and march along accordingly (a tendency of ours, to be sure).
But what if it’s happened TWICE, Clint? We are thinking of course of North Korea, this being the birthday of its leader Kim Jong-Il, thus the biggest celebration of the year there.
As we’ve described before here, February 16th is a huge human flower project in Pyongyang, as public spaces in the capital are swathed in the national flower “Kimjongilia,” a bright red begonia named for you-know-who. The begonia was a gift to the nation in 1988; we’d always heard that its breeding was commissioned by Kim Il-Sung, then the North Korean leader, to honor his beloved son and dictator-in-waiting.
Kim Il-Sung, too, had been honored with a flower, a purple orchid which was a gift from Indonesia’s president Sukarno in 1965. Ceremonial occasions in North Korea (well, the two leaders’ birthdays ARE the ceremonial occasions here) always feature huge displays of the two plants in bloom.