Human Flower Project
Thursday, July 29, 2010
Flower Vendors: Keeping It Informal
It’s happened in San Antonio and San Francisco, and now in Istanbul; authorities are trying to get flower vendors to buy in and make their work official.
A boy makes flower garlands to sell on the street in Hyderabad, India
Photo: Sandy Ao
Within the heart of every self-proclaimed progressive, a dictator is lurking:
“You must not be poor. You WILL be clean and happy!”
For progressives, nothing’s crazier or more intolerable than people who won’t be “bettered.“ But the record shows that, despite 150 years of social science and persuasion, there are plenty of folks who don’t want to sign up for the program.
In the realm of commerce, this recalcitrance is called “the informal economy.” For obvious reasons, it includes the black market, but most of its participants are selling things that are perfectly legal – like flowers. They’re just operating outside the reach of officialdom and regulation.
Anybody who’s ever been paid in cash (or, alternatively, had to fill out pages of forms and file the pounds of paper that the “formal economy” demands) knows there are advantages to marginality. But there are disadvantages, too. Ask any undocumented worker who’s been cheated out of a day’s pay.
Sunday, July 25, 2010
Floral form may suggest a mating strategy, but beware of flying to conclusions.
Morphology (and display): Does this look like a sexual cue to you?
Photo: via medusasmakeup
Why do happily married women wear so much mascara? We look to dark and glam Tacca chantrieri, the bat flower, for clues—with thanks to Tessa Laird for spotting this peculiar species.
A native to Southeast Asia, Tacca chantrieri has been puzzling a busy team of botanists. This plant, and others in its family, seem to be generally self-pollinating, so what are the lipliner, blush and long lashes for?
“Investment in attractive structures represents an allocation cost that animal-pollinated plants pay to secure the ﬁtness advantages that accrue from cross-fertilization,” write Ling Zhang and fellow researchers. “In contrast, for species in which pre-dominant selﬁng is the primary mating strategy, investment in attractive structures is superﬂuous, and resources are instead redirected to alternative structures or activities.” Like fruit production or philosophy.
Friday, July 23, 2010
‘Ritmo, Tambo’ y Flores’
Transported to a Caribbean garden by horns, flowers, drums, and a voice—we remember Celia Cruz.
Queen of Salsa
Photo: via David Byrne
Your voice, Celia Cruz. What an instrument, what a trumpet flower!
The late Cuban singer did more to spread the radiance of Latin music than anyone we know of—or can imagine. The one and only time we heard her live was at “La Noche Latina” preceding the New Orleans Jazzfest (1988?). In the ballroom of a riverboat anchored in the Mississippi, Willie Colon and his band opened, then wizard of percussion Tito Puente took the stage for several numbers, and finally Celia was ushered in, dressed in shiny aquamarine.
The crowd sighed in reverence and screamed with elation before “The Queen of Salsa,” shouting their requests from the moment she picked up the microphone. Flashing the gap in her immense Martha Rae smile, she bowed and, one by one, sang every number they asked for. Celia wasn’t just a performer, she was a provider!
Saturday, July 17, 2010
Mercer Street, You Could Be Cooler
SoHo presents problems for urban ecologists, but a little goes a little way, and there’s a long way to go.
Chic shops along Mercer St., NYC, opt for signage and display-windows over greenery
Photo: Georgia Silvera Seamans
Mercer Street, SoHo (south of Houston) is one of New York City’s cool streets but not because of its shade trees. In fact, there are only three street trees on Mercer. The street’s cool factor derives from the many boutique shops – Prada, Curve (pictured, left), Kate Spade, Rag & Bone, UGG among others – along its six-block length between Houston and Canal Streets (there are six additional blocks north of Houston).
Why, might you ask, are there only three trees on this street, in a city well known for its MillionTreesNYC urban forest expansion initiative? One reason might be cultural/commercial. Trees can block historic building facades and hip signage, thus reducing shop visibility. Preference survey research conducted by Kathleen L. Wolf has found that “merchants have less appreciation for trees than the people they wish to welcome to their shops.” Wolf also observed that “consumers respond positively to shopping environments having a healthy urban forest.” However, the lack of tree canopy on Mercer has not hampered shoppers!
Wolf’s town of Seattle recommends trees as “good for business and the environment.” Seattle’s Office of Economic Development has made its position clear:
Trees provide enormous environmental and economic benefits. Recent research conducted by the University of Washington indicates that districts with street trees attract more shoppers, who are willing to pay as much as 11% more for products. The City encourages street trees and community-initiated tree plantings and offers many resources. The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) offers information, expertise and other resources to help business districts plant and maintain trees. Investing in trees can bring the following returns:
• Increase in property values—especially full-grown healthy trees.
• Increase in the number of shoppers, and increase in perceived product value and customer service in a business district.
• Trees help mitigate air pollution, slow storm water runoff and save energy by shading buildings in summer and letting in light in the winter.
• Trees and greenery are psychologically and aesthetically pleasing.
Another reason for the lack of trees along Mercer is that trees in the SoHo district are considered, by some, to be “historical inaccurate.” The New York Times reported that in 1994, the Landmarks Preservation Commission “rejected the planting of trees, saying they would mar the historical integrity of the Cast Iron District.”